New Zealand not far from being favourites
February 9, 2013
Start time 7.00pm (0600GMT)
It might only feel five minutes since the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka - and it is only five months - but the next tournament is little more than a year away so there is no time like the present to start the planning, especially with the fragmented nature of bilateral T20s at international level.
This three-match series gives both teams a decent chance to bed into the format. The structure of the tour is also to New Zealand's benefit with the shorter formats (50-over matches follow later this month) their best chance of turning England over - the odds favouring England could even be a little generous - and success in coloured clothes would allow them to enter the Test series in decent heart.
Both teams had a disappointing World T20 in Sri Lanka, exiting in the Super Eights, and have enjoyed mixed results since. England shared their series in India while New Zealand lost against South Africa, although they did gain one victory through a stunning innings by Martin Guptill.
Batting is probably the stronger department of both sides, especially with Ross Taylor's return for the hosts, and coupled with some short boundaries around New Zealand it should lead to a high-scoring series. England are still trying to work out their best combination of bowlers and Steven Finn's poor warm-up form has confused matters a little.
Form guide(Most recent first, completed matches)
New Zealand LWLTL
In the spotlight
Ross Taylor has admitted his relationship with coach Mike Hesson remains a "work in progress" but so long as his mind is switched to batting he will considerably strength the New Zealand side. However, his T20 numbers are perhaps a little lower than expected - an average of 24.37 and strike-rate of 120 - and it has been suggested that he has not always been best utilised in the order. New Zealand are not good enough not to make the most of him.
The England wicketkeeping merry-go-round continues and currently Jos Buttler is the man hanging on. Yet while questions remain about his glovework, as a batsman he is starting to show his rare ability. He has produced a couple of sparkling T20 displays in the last few months and prepared for this series with back-to-back rapid half centuries against the New Zealand XI.
Grant Elliott (quad) and Ian Butler (ankle) have been ruled out of the opening game meaning a call-up for allrounder Jimmy Neesham who now has a good chance of playing. Hamish Rutherford, the son of Ken, is in line for a debut to open the batting and Taylor's return is likely to come at No. 4 followed by a clutch of allrounders.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Hamish Rutherford, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt & wk), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Colin Munro, 6 James Franklin, 7 Andrew Ellis, 8 Jimmy Neesham, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
Joe Root did not appear in any of the warm-up matches so is unlikely to feature and the main issue is to solve being who plays at No. 7. Samit Patel bowled well in the second warm-up match and may be asked to share some overs with Luke Wright. Eoin Morgan's batting position will depend on the state of the innings and overs remaining.
England (probable) 1 Alex Hales, 2 Michael Lumb, 3 Luke Wright, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 Stuart Broad (capt), 9 James Tredwell, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Jade Dernbach
Pitch and conditions
It is a drop-in surface at Eden Park and is expected to be of decent pace, ideal for Twenty20 cricket. The unusual dimensions of the ground, which is also a rugby stadium, mean exceedingly short straight boundaries which will make life hard work for all the bowlers, but particularly the spinners. The forecast is for a warm, sunny day leading to a very pleasant evening.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand's top order will include three T20 hundreds (two for Brendon McCullum and one for Guptill) but England's batsmen have yet to score one. Alex Hales and Luke Wright have both reached 99.
- England have only lost once in six T20s against New Zealand. Their most recent meeting was at the World T20 in Sri Lanka when England won by six wickets.
"I'd imagine it will be a feisty contest, like we always have with New Zealand, and both teams will be going hell for leather to win."
"He's come back in and he was smiling and happy and a definite part of the group. Ross is a fabulous cricketer and he's shown that so far in his career, his ability to step up time and time again on the international stage."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo